HERE’S WHAT WE WILL LOSE (AGAIN) UNDER A TRUMP PRESIDENCY
JUST THE SAME WAY WE LOST DECADES OF ENERGY PROGRESS WHEN RONALD REAGAN WAS ELECTED IN 1980
You may not be old enough to have actually experienced the Reagan Administration – all its union bashing, trickle down economics, welfare recipient sliming – you know, pretty much the same dumb shit we’ve been subjected to between 1980 until the election of Barak Obama in 2008. When Regan removed the solar panels that Jimmy Carter had installed on the roof of the White House, it marked the loss of whatever progress Carter and the nation had made towards the development of alternate energy sources. Progress was dead in the water and R&D left dormant for over two decades.
And, if history is any indication (no Republican Administration has ever championed the development of alternate energy sources except those that benefited targeted groups – the ethanol mandate, for example) the Trump Presidency will be a walk backwards from the progress made over the past 8 years. In 2008 the U.S. imported 2.6 billion barrels of oil annually. Toady that figure is down to 1.8 billion barrels. In 2008 non-traditional sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) generated some 100 million megawatts of electricity while today this figure is over 300 million megawatts nearly three times in less than a decade. This is what the Obama Administration has accomplished with its energy policies and it’s pretty damned remarkable.
As an illustration of what can be done by adopting sensible energy policies, here’s the story of how one New England town, Burlington, Vermont, was able to transform its energy production and become self-sufficient for its energy needs. Here’s a small excerpt:
Much of Burlington’s successful transformation to energy self-sufficiency rested on the shoulders of newly elected – in 1983 – mayor, Bernie Sanders. Self-sufficiency and environmental protection were key goals, and the Sanders administration came into office with a head start. Under Paquette, the city-owned Burlington Electric Department decided to replace its aging coal-fired power plant on the lakefront with a wood-fired one in the Intervale, a neglected stretch of Winooski River floodplain where the last dairy farmer was surrounded by junkyards.
Completed during Sanders’ first term, the McNeil biomass plant could use local wood to generate nearly all of the city’s needs (though half the power—then and now—is owned by the plant’s minority stakeholders and winds up in other towns.) The Burlington Environmental Alliance opposed it with pen-and-ink posters of a clear-cut landscape under the words “The Wood Chip Plant is Coming.” But the plant opened with a staff of full-time foresters charged with developing green rules and protocols for their suppliers. “To this day there are no sustainable harvesting standards in the State of Vermont except for ours,” says Burlington Electric’s chief forester Betsy Lesnikoski, who has been monitoring harvests at the plant for 33 years. “We invented the wheel.”
[Here's the full article: It's well worth your time.]
BURLINGTON VT BECOMES ENERGY SELF-SUFFICIENT
Of particular importance is the fact that Burlington’s electrical power plant is owned by the city’s residents not some national mega-power producer like Duke Energy or Dominion Electric. In fact, our own electric company, Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) was just bought out by Exelon, one of the largest such companies in the country. PEPCO serves the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland. It’s a fairly small company as electric power companies go. D.C. residents did not approve of the sale (merger) but then we had nothing to say about it. PEPCO did come up short in the past couple of storms we had, but somehow I don’t think an even larger company is going to be able to improve things all that much.
The biggest stumbling block for U.S.residents trying to convert to solar power are the electric companies themselves. Their interests are directed towards their shareholders not towards their customers. Anything that negatively impacts their profits – even though they are public utilities – is not in their best interests. As a result they have made it extremely difficult for homeowners to convert to solar energy, for example, through the use of complicated formulas, time of use rates and a host of other restrictions. I researched the addition of solar panels a few years ago but came away thinking it was not worth it.
Thus the advantage of the Burlington situation and the main reason why they were able to obtain self-sufficiency.
Although it remains to be seen what Trump will do as President, he’s already backed away from a number of his campaign pronouncements including (sort of) that Climate Change is a Chinese hoax, we are unlike to see any additional significant progress towards the spread of alternate energy usage. It’s just not a Republican “thing” and never has been. And it’s a shame. The extraordinary progress under that Obama Administration after three decades of inaction is likely to be undone for no good reason except for political bullshit.